TEMPE, Ariz. — It was a welcome sight for the Arizona Cardinals on Monday afternoon.
After missing the previous two weeks of organized team activities, and going through an offseason embroiled in a PED suspension, the No. 21 jersey was out front and center as Patrick Peterson made his return to the Cardinals’ practice facility.
“It’s great to have him back,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the cornerback. “He’s a great teammate, great player and everyone’s pretty juiced. … He’s one of the best to ever do it, so he didn’t need much of a warmup to get out there.”
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) June 3, 2019
With his daughter enrolled in summer school and his family issues subsided, Peterson can now focus on getting up to speed during the offseason in the new-look Cardinals defense, the cornerback said.
“I’m happy to be back with my boys,” Peterson said at the conclusion of Monday’s OTAs. “I’m looking forward to building those stones so we can get where we want to get at the end of the year, and that’s the playoffs.”
And it seems like he picked up right where he left off.
“Feels good to be back around my teammates, my support cast in the locker room,” Peterson said. “Got a little sweat in today, got a little lathered up today so it was a good run.
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) June 3, 2019
“I’m definitely looking forward for many more great practices. Got my first pick today too so it was a welcome back gift.”
Peterson added the gift-wrapped INT came courtesy of “K1,” or rookie signal-caller Kyler Murray.
For first-year Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, the cornerback’s return just adds to the defense’s potential as a unit.
“We knew he was coming back in,” Joseph told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta on Monday. “It’s important. It’s important for his teammates, it’s important for him. It’s a new system and he has to come in and figure out the system so he can play well for us.
“He is a No. 1 lockdown corner so my vision for Pat P is to take away their best receiver each week. That’s why we pay him, he wants that challenge. That’s Pat’s role.”
It’s not just the defensive scheme, however. It’s the players, especially the rookie defenders, that also get a boost from what Peterson brings to the field.
“Pat P being here today, being here for the last four OTAs, the mandatory minicamp, that’s huge for our team,” Joseph added. “When everyone’s here, it just feels right. Obviously it’s not mandatory, but it’s mandatory to win games, it’s mandatory to build the best defense we can.”
Veteran cornerback and first-year Cardinal Robert Alford echoed Joseph.
“It’s real big,” Alford said. “He’s the big kid here. He’s the man on defense, he’s made the Pro Bowl each and every year. He’s got some accolades that I want, so just coming here and getting the experience from him and just learning the game from him, I feel like it’s huge.
“I can speak for all of us on defense that he’s going to help us out a lot in the film room. So just having him back on the field is real huge.”
Peterson, who is facing a six-game PED suspension form the NFL, won’t be eligible to play until Week 7.
It’s a tough blow for Arizona as Peterson is a force to be reckoned with for opposing wideouts. In his eight-year career, the cornerback has accumulated 385 tackles, 23 interceptions and 76 passes defensed. He’s also made three sacks and recovered three fumbles over that span.
Last season, Peterson was ranked as the fifth-best cornerback in the league by Pro Football Focus, recording 54 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups.
Nonetheless, the cornerback is taking the time he has with the team to fine-tune his game and his locker room presence.
“You can always get better, no matter where you are in your career, so I think these are some definitely valuable moments in spring football to build that comradery and trust in one another. This is a very valuable period, especially having a new coach.”
As for being ready to go after sitting through a six-week lull of non-Cardinals activities?
That’s a given, according to the All-Pro.
“I’m going to be physically ready to go,” Peterson said. “It’s just all about missing those six weeks is getting back into the fire.
“I’m going to be in shape, that’s not going to be a problem, it’s just now getting back into the groove of things with my teammates because I’m not going to be there the next six weeks.”